While Kale is still having its moment in the spotlight as a versatile, delicious veggie, it's important to keep variety in your vegetable line up. There are many other vegetables that are even better than kale for reasons that span taste, price, and recipe adaptability. Eating a wider variety of fruits and veggies provides the most complex and efficient nutrition, plus it prevents boredom. The world of leafy greens is abundant so look beyond kale for your next meal. Another bonus: since many of these other vegetables aren't as well known, they can be even cheaper without kale's trendy name recognition.
This Asian leafy green has gained popularity around the world for its naturally crisp and light texture. It can be used cooked or raw with minimal preparation, and is easier to digest than bulky kale. Eat it to boost your intake of vitamins A, C and K, as well as folate, calcium and potassium.
The leafy, green part of one of America's favorite condiments is a tasty way to work veggies into your diet. The raw greens have a spicy quality and a firm-yet-tender texture similar to some lettuces. Mustard greens offer a more piquant flavor with less earthiness than kale, which many people find more appealing.
Collard greens have a lengthy list of beneficial nutritional components almost identical to kale. They are best known in the United States as a slow-cooked side dish, often spiked with ham hocks or other cured meats for flavor. In their cooked form, they are subtle with a sweet, earthy flavor. Eaten raw, they are similar to kale but can be used as a wrap, thanks to their flat and broad shape.
Chard comes in different varieties ranging from green to bright pink stems. Most people prefer chard to kale for its softer and crisper texture, which holds up better than spinach when cooked, but it is not as tough as kale. This heart healthy vegetable can be used in place of kale for any recipe by reducing cooking time be half.
This member of the chicory family is a bitter green that can be enjoyed raw or cooked. It is popular in Italian cooking as a way to add inexpensive bulk to soups and other one-pot meals. Often less expensive than other bitter greens, like frisee, it makes a good salad base when topped with rich and flavorful ingredients like bacon and a runny egg.
The most common and perhaps most loved leafy green, spinach is often less expensive than kale because of its ubiquity. Fresh young spinach is the lettuce of choice for many salads, adding an extra array of vitamins and minerals when compared to other watery lettuces. Cooked down it loses much of its volume, making spinach an easy way to get a serving of dark, leafy greens into a daily diet.
Arugula is a peppery, tender lettuce, similar to spinach in that it can be used raw in sandwiches and for salads. It can also work well when cooked quickly. The slight spiciness of arugula makes it more flavorful than spinach and kale, while still retaining an appealingly soft texture in all of its forms.
Bok choy has an impressive amount of nutrition packed into it's mild flavor and silky texture. It is high in vitamin A as well as potassium and magnesium. It can be enjoyed raw as a crunchy addition to dishes, or when gently cooked through boiling, steaming or sauteing. Cooks find the tender stem and pillowy leaves soak up sauce nicely.
These cheap mini-cabbages used to have a bad reputation, associated with sulphuric smells and mushiness due to overcooking. Recently home chefs and professionals alike have discovered that shaving the sprouts into raw slaws yields a sweet, earthy flavor. Use high heat in the oven or in a pan to develop caramelization for a rich, nutty flavor.
Cabbage is one of the least expensive vegetables year round, and is frequently touted as one of the healthiest. When raw, it provides crunch to anything from slaws to taco toppings. Cooked, it takes on a soft and sweet quality, adding inexpensive bulk to any soup, stew, or stir fry.
Like kale, mushrooms are a great source of plant protein. Unlike kale, mushrooms can replace meat in recipes for a similar taste and texture, while kale tastes more like rabbit food to most people.
Cauliflower is an inexpensive way to add healthy volume to dishes like pastas, soups and casseroles. It's soft, cooked texture gives it versatility to transform into mashed-potato like sides, or even cheesy, carb-free pizza crusts. It's ability to be easily disguised makes it a much easier choice for getting the entire family on board with eating veggies.
Beets contain many essential minerals, one of which is iron. Though iron is also found in kale, the sweet flavor of beets is more appealing to many people than kale's intensely earthy flavor, making it easier to use in a variety of recipes.
Kale is often the go-to green for people seeking more fiber in their diet, as the insolubly stuff helps keep digestion regular. Luckily, those who are not a fan of greens can still get their fiber from other veggies, like carrots, which are more snackable, plus full of fiber and other vitamins and minerals.
There are many different kinds of lettuce which have a neutral flavor and a crunchy texture. Incorporating lettuces into a daily diet is easy even for picky eaters who dislike bitter or earthy flavors. Many lettuces also tend to be less expensive than kale and other specialized greens.
We tend to think of parsley as a garnish, but it can be the star of the show. Use parsley instead of lettuce or greens in both raw and cooked recipes for a flavorful dish that also packs plenty of nutrition. This option can be the cheapest for those that grow their own.
If given the option of buying turnips with their greens still on them, take it. Turnip greens can be used just like chard or spinach, and pack a similar nutritional punch. At farmers markets the greens and turnips are often sold separately for a fraction of the price of kale.
Dandelion greens are intensely bitter, but also intensely detoxifying. Anyone who enjoys kale for its health benefits can get an extra boost of liver-supporting nutrition from these greens eaten raw in salads or cooked. Those who live in an area with naturally-occurring dandelions that don't get sprayed with harmful chemicals can harvest their own for free.
These crunchy, boat-shaped leaves are nature's pre-made appetizer cups. Eating bitter greens is healthy for the internal organs, and can be made delicious by adding flavors to balance out the pronounced flavor, like a sprinkling of blue cheese and apple slice.
Broccoli is having a renaissance as cooking techniques shift from boiling to high-heat caramelization for better texture and flavor. With a similar nutritional makeup as kale, broccoli can be easier and cheaper when bought frozen and added last minute to dishes -- easily adding a full serving of green vegetables.
These healthy gems feel like a treat rather than a chore to eat. When bought whole they are relatively inexpensive due to the work needed to clean them. Other options for buying them on the cheap is to go for jarred, canned, or frozen varieties..
The edible root of the more popular overground vegetable celery is a versatile and flavorful addition to any vegetable lovers line up. The root can be used like potato, but it is considerably less starchy, making creamy side dishes that are actually good for you a welcome possibility.
Watercress is a pungent green that is popular in salads, sandwiches and soups. The leaves are tender-crisp with a distinct, peppery spice that adds intensity to any dish. A little goes a long way, minimizing the cost of the overall dish.
This bulbous root vegetable is as versatile as they come, and generally includes edible, leafy greens on top. Sliced thin it can be enjoyed as a crunchy addition to crudite platters or salads. When cooked, it can replace potato for those who want a similar texture with less carb-heavy starch.
Asparagus is one of the best vegetables for detoxifying the body, while also providing a host of vitamins and minerals. While fresh asparagus is seasonal, if can be found inexpensively in jarred and frozen versions year-round.